Singing Insect Season Opens

by Carl Strang

Saturday was the spring bird count, and for the first time in recent years I was able to participate. In the early afternoon we were standing on a grassy hill, scanning a pond for water birds in Timber Ridge Forest Preserve, when my ear caught a faint, brief buzzing sound. Then, another. By then my attention had been pulled away from birds, as it seemed I had heard northern green-striped grasshopper displays. I was unable to take the time to confirm it that day, but the next day when I returned I heard many.

Male green-striped grasshopper

Male green-striped grasshopper

Those first observations brought with them the season’s first new question. I was hearing many distinct, if low-volume crepitations, enough to declare the singing insect season open. I did not see any of the grasshoppers, however. Usually their display flights are reasonably conspicuous if you are looking for them. It was moderately windy, though. Were they able to get a normal display out of a shorter, lower flight? Were they somehow rattling their wings without flying? Perhaps later in the season, when displaying grasshoppers are more abundant, I’ll be able to find out.

Incidentally, that May 4 first date is middle-of-the-road. The earliest displays I have observed for that species in DuPage County were on April 3 of last year. The latest starting date was May 16 in 2008. This insect overwinters as a nymph, and so is able to complete its development early in the season.

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3 Comments

  1. Gary Clinkman said,

    May 22, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    I have been hearing this grasshopper all through May in a least four
    locations in the Palos region: Bullfrog Lake, Turtlehead Lake, Cooper’s
    Hawk Grove( Rubio Woods ), and Orland Grassland. I was doing bird counts
    at the first three and I didn’t take time to track these down. I looked for
    them flying but didn’t see any. There were plenty of sounds. At Orland
    last Saturday I did try to track one down. When I got closer to the sound
    the sound appeared again fifteen feet farther away. Maybe it was the
    same one or maybe it was another one. I never did find it. There was
    nothing flying when these sounds were made in any of these places.

    • natureinquiries said,

      May 23, 2013 at 5:56 am

      Thanks, Gary, I have made brief efforts a couple times to pursue this, but no success, yet. What is needed is to catch one in the act of making the sound while perched. Sometimes their flights are very short, but then the sound is cut off. When the sounds are separated by a few feet, different individuals usually are involved. Some males seem to display with some frequency, though, and they are the best candidates for resolving this question.

  2. Lisa Rainsong said,

    June 4, 2013 at 11:21 am

    I never see them flying when I hear them down in the meadow grasses. The sound may come from more than one place, which could be multiple individuals. Sometimes, however, the sound comes from the same place for a while and on occasion I have found the responsible individual right where I heard him.


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